We’re over halfway through the year, and while we’ve been picking out the best titles on Netflix throughout the summer, we wanted to take a look at a few that have flown under the radar for most.
Before we dive into those full lists, you can find our picks of the best movies of the year from our resident film critic if you want even more recommendations. If you’d rather go by what others are watching, check out our half-time report for the biggest hits of 2023 so far based on Netflix’s released numbers.
Note: Just for full transparency, we’ll pick out six Netflix Originals added to Netflix globally (unless stated otherwise) and a couple specifically added to Netflix in the US on a licensed basis. Other regions’ availability on the final two picks will vary.
Cunk on Earth (Season 1)
We begin with some comedy in the form of a documentary series that genuinely will have you both howling and very occasionally have you learning something new.
Produced by Broke and Bones (the same company behind Black Mirror), this comedy series will be most people’s first introduction to the character of Philomena Cunk, who regularly appeared on Charlie Brooker’s Newswipes and Yearwipes for the BBC.
Her character is given the opportunity to travel the world telling the story of humanity and our inventions while getting to ask actual experts rather trivial questions.
First released by the BBC, Netflix received the show at the end of January 2023 and got added to Netflix UK as a licensed title in June 2023.
If you love British humor, this is definitely one to add to your streaming list.
The Magician’s Elephant
Every quarter, Netflix seems to be dropping a big new animated movie. While some of the latter animated movies have made a buzz, it’s hard to say that The Magician’s Elephant made a real impact when it dropped in March.
While it did enter the charts for a few weeks, its long-tail impact has been non-existent, and that’s a shame as it’s one of the best-animated movies in Netflix’s growing arsenal.
In our review of the movie, we gave it a PLAY rating concluding the movie “gives us an original fairy tale that brings out the child in all of us. The central themes of Hope and the Belief in the Impossible mixed with indelible characters make this film a cut above for Netflix Original Animation.”
The movie also plays an especially important role when you consider Netflix purchased Animal Logic as one of its internal studios going forward.
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers (Season 1)
Our hidden anime gem pick for the year so far is Ōoku: The Inner Chambers from Studio DEEN. Based on the manga from Fumi Yoshinaga, the 10-episode series has only received a handful of reviews on IMDb, but they’re all glowing.
The series is set in the Edo period of Japan and has seen the male population decimated and now almost like prized possessions being looked after carefully.
For any fans of Japanese history (even though this is an alternative version) or more low-key anime stories with a lot of soul, this is for you.
Siren: Survive the Island (Season 1)
Moving to Korean content, Siren: Survive the Island feels like it got somewhat overshadowed this year by Physical: 100. Both are intense reality shows. While the latter got a renewal and blew up the Netflix top 10s, the same can’t be said for the former.
The 10-episode series sees a couple dozen women from various professional backgrounds, like police officers and soldiers, compete in a series of physical challenges to make it off the remote island they’re stranded on.
My Dad the Bounty Hunter
It’s certainly been a quieter year when it comes to kids’ animated programming relying on bankable hits like CoComelon and Gabby’s Dollhouse for the most part.
The one that’s caught our eye is the beautifully animated and well-told series, My Dad the Bounty Hunter.
The series’ story revolves around two curious children who accidentally find themselves hitching a ride into space, uncovering a revelation about their father, who is the most formidable bounty hunter in the entire galaxy.
At the time of writing, a second season of the show was just around the corner (set to release in August 2023), featuring even more high-profile celebrities lending their voices.
Netflix’s gaming offering has grown to nearly 70 (reportedly will hit 100 by the close of the year), and 2023 alone has seen some excellent game releases. One that’s not given as much buzz as it should be getting is Laya’s Horizon, a beautiful game that’s equally as challenging for the player as much as pushing your device to its limit.
The Verge called it one of the best games Netflix has released thus far, and we’re inclined to agree. However, it’s sadly not even in the top 20 most downloaded games, so we’ll give it another nod here.
For more on the best new games added in 2023, we’ve got a separate post here.
The Mindy Project (Seasons 1-6)
Moving onto the licensed titles, Netflix has picked up a slew of great back-catalog shows in the US this year, and one that got lost in the shuffle (undoubtedly because it was released so early in the year) was The Mindy Project which failed to chart well in the top 10s following its release.
Starring Mindy Kaling (one of the people behind Netflix’s Never Have I Ever), the series is about the chaotic personal and professional life of Mindy Lahiri, an obstetrician/gynecologist with a penchant for romantic entanglements.
Extra funny for streaming nerds like me is the fact that the latter seasons of this show were, at one stage, “Hulu Originals.” The streaming wars are strange!
On the Fringe (2022)
Many licensed movies make their SVOD debuts on Netflix, whether that’s all the Sony Pictures titles coming to the service through their first window deals or smaller titles from individual distributors like On the Fringe hitting Netflix earlier in the year.
Starring Penélope Cruz, the movie tells several interwoven stories that occur throughout a single day. All have a common theme of hardship with a bleak economic picture forcing them to make decisions that shouldn’t be thrust on ordinary people.
It’s well-acted and one of those titles you wouldn’t ordinarily go out of your way to watch, and makes a perfect hidden gem discovery for movie night.
That’s our top picks for the hidden gems added to Netflix so far in 2023. What are yours?